Wayne-Sanderson disability discrimination case settled

Poultry company offers settlement in suit in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused it of wrongfully terminating disabled worker.

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Wayne-Sanderson Farms has agreed to pay $62,384 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against the company by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC, in its lawsuit, alleged that the company terminated a disabled employee at its poultry processing plant in Summit, Mississippi, after he “sought a reasonable accommodation necessitated by his severe cluster headache and migraine condition,” according to information in a press release.

EEOC further alleged that the company refused to discuss the employee’s request, sent him home to await discipline, and eventually terminated him. The agency asserted that the firing was done “because of his disability and in retaliation for seeking the accommodation.”

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with a disability, requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability, so long as it does not cause an undue hardship, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who seeks a reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Sanderson Farms, LLC and Sanderson Farms, LLC (Processing Division), Case No. 5:21-cv-00084-KS-BWR) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit prohibits the from discriminating based on disability in the future and requires the companies to revise their ADA policy against employment discrimination. Wayne-Sanderson will also be required to provide training on the ADA to employees at the Summit facility and to post a revised ADA policy in English and Spanish in the facility’s break rooms. The EEOC will monitor the companies’ compliance for the decree’s duration.

"Although Wayne-Sanderson Farms denies any allegation of wrongdoing, the company is pleased to resolve this matter under amicable terms ... and reach an agreement with the EEOC. The company's implementation of revised ADA employee training procedures and posting of revised ADA policies were already underway company-wide prior to the settlement as a part of its integration of the merged companies.  Settling the case was a strategic decision to allow us to continue to focus on integration efforts and to avoid protracted litigation," the company said in a statement.

Wayne-Sanderson Farms formed in 2022 with the merger of top poultry companies Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms. The Summit plant, where the alleged actions occurred, was part of the Sanderson Farms network.

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